Sunday, August 03, 2008

Denying the undeniable: Enforced disappearances in Pakistan

© Amnesty International.">Amina Masood Janjua holding the photo of her “disappeared” husband in September 2006.

Amina Masood Janjua holding the photo of her “disappeared” husband in September 2006.

© Amnesty International.

© Private">Protests against enforced disappearances, Pakistan

Protests against enforced disappearances, Pakistan

© Private

Amnesty International, July 22, 2008


“For us relief is only when our loved one is safe and sound standing freed before us. [...] I believe that my husband Masood is held only three kilometres from my home, yet he continues to suffer unknown ill-treatment and we, his wife, his children and his very old parents cannot even see him. They [the new government] must act now to bring them back immediately."
- Amina Masood Janjua, July 2008

The last time Amina Masood Janjua saw her husband, Masood Janjua, was on 30 July 2005 when he left home to meet his friend Faisal Faraz. Pakistani security forces apprehended both men on that day while on a bus journey to another city.

Since then, Pakistan’s government has been holding them in secret without charge or trial, repeatedly denying any knowledge of their whereabouts despite eyewitness testimony as to their detention.

Masood Janjua and Faisal Faraz are among hundreds of victims of enforced disappearance in Pakistan, including children as young as nine and ten years old. Many of them were detained after the attacks in the USA on 11 September 2001, their detentions justified in the name of the US-led “war on terror”.

The practice, rare before 2001, then spread to activists involved in pushing for greater ethnic or regional rights, including Baloch and Sindhis.

Despite undeniable evidence, the government of President Pervez Musharraf consistently denied subjecting anyone to enforced disappearances.

In the report Denying the undeniable, enforced disappearances in Pakistan, Amnesty International uses official court records and affidavits of victims and witnesses of enforced disappearances to confront the Pakistani authorities with evidence of how government officials obstructed attempts to trace those who have “disappeared.”

New government brings opportunity for change
The report urges the newly elected government of Pakistan – which has pledged to improve Pakistan’s human rights record - to end the policy of denial, investigate all cases of enforced disappearance and hold those responsible to account.

“By holding people in secret detention the government of Pakistan has not only violated their rights, but also failed in its duty to charge and try those suspected of involvement in attacks on civilians”, said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific director.

Crucially, Pakistan’s new government must reinstate deposed judges who had previously been investigating disappearance cases and were deposed by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed a state of emergency in the country in November 2007.

Complicity of other governments
The report also calls on other governments - most notably the USA - to ensure that they are not complicit in and do not contribute to or tolerate the practice of enforced disappearance in Pakistan.

Many of those unlawfully held at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay, and those who have been held in secret CIA custody were arrested in Pakistan. Others were unlawfully transferred from Pakistan to countries where they faced torture and other ill treatment.

Many people who have been secretly held in detention centres in Pakistan say they were interrogated by Pakistani intelligence agencies, but also by foreign intelligence agents.
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